NASA Invests in Ann Arbor Company’s Astronaut Virtual Assistant Concept

NASA has selected Ann Arbor artificial intelligence system provider Soar Technology to receive as much as $750,000 of $104 million in Phase II funding to advance its technology that could provide astronauts with a virtual assistant aboard spacecraft.
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NASA is giving as much as $750,000 to Soar Technology to advance technology that could create a virtual assistant for spacecraft. // Stock photo

NASA has selected Ann Arbor artificial intelligence system provider Soar Technology to receive as much as $750,000 of $104 million in Phase II funding to advance its technology that could provide astronauts with a virtual assistant aboard spacecraft.

The system would be able to interact with the crew and other spacecraft systems to perform tasks, diagnose problems, and brainstorm solutions without help from ground teams. The technology could be adapted for use on Earth, including by the medical industry to support patient diagnosis and treatment.

The Soar Technology award was one of 124 given to small businesses in 31 states. It already has been the recipient of $125,000 in Phase 1 funding.

“Small businesses offer innovative solutions that benefit every area of NASA and often find applications outside of the agency,” says Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “This announcement is another step forward in NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach. The agency continues to invest in and support small businesses, as they continue to mature important technologies for future missions that can also benefit us on Earth.”

NASA annually invests in U.S. small businesses with promising new technologies – companies developing better batteries, virtual assistants, lightweight materials, and more. These technologies can benefit space missions, as well as improve life on Earth.

The Phase II proposals were chosen according to their technical merit and feasibility, Phase I results, as well as the experience, qualifications and facilities of the submitting organization. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the proposed work plan and commercial potential.

Phase II is focused on the development, demonstration and delivery of the innovation. Phase II contracts last for 24 months with a maximum funding of $750,000. Only small businesses awarded a Phase I contract are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement.

Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products, and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the NASA SBIR program.

Soar Technology’s Phase II plan is to develop a comprehensive working prototype cognitive architecture-based virtual assistant to support human exploration in deep space, and to demonstrate it in a representative environment.

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